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Rightlessness in an Age of Rights$
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Ayten Gundogdu

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199370412

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199370412.001.0001

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Human Rights across Borders

(p.1) Introduction
Rightlessness in an Age of Rights

Ayten Gündoğdu

Oxford University Press

The introduction makes a case for critically examining human rights by engaging with the work of Hannah Arendt. It centers on the pervasive problems faced by millions of migrants who become vulnerable to various forms of violence, discrimination, and abuse as they cross borders. Despite the significant developments in the field of human rights since the time Arendt completed her analysis of statelessness, asylum seekers, refugees, and undocumented immigrants continue to find themselves in a condition of rightlessness, understood in terms of a precarious legal, political, and human standing. This paradox (i.e., the perplexing rightlessness of those who appear in their bare humanity) raises caveats against understanding human rights as the harbingers of a postnational, denationalized, or cosmopolitan era characterized by the decline of territorial sovereignty and the dissociation of rights from citizenship status. The introduction highlights the need to grapple with this paradox by undertaking a critical analysis of human rights—one that closely engages with Arendt’s political theory and takes it in new directions by rethinking its main concepts and arguments in the light of the contemporary problems and struggles of migrants.

Keywords:   Hannah Arendt, stateless, rightless, human rights, citizenship, sovereignty, postnational, denationalized, cosmopolitan

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